Shetland episode one review: New detective duo are Cagney & Lacey at the edge of the world

The new series kicked off on Wednesday evening
Up close: Alison O'Donnell and newcomer Ashley Jensen in ShetlandUp close: Alison O'Donnell and newcomer Ashley Jensen in Shetland
Up close: Alison O'Donnell and newcomer Ashley Jensen in Shetland

For a moment I was worried. A swanky bar, a vampish woman, Tower Bridge shimmering in the background. Had Shetland relocated from Lerwick to London? Had our favourite homegrown detective drama jumped the basking shark?

But then Ashley Jensen called housebreaking burglary. It doesn’t exist under Scots Law and it just didn’t sound right coming out of her mouth. As DI Ruth Calder she’d clearly spent too long in the south. Time for her to come home.

Hide Ad

And suddenly there she was, back in the tree-less land of lonely roads, gloomy voes, harled walls, cattle grids and sheep wool snagged on barbed wire, fluttering in the wind. And how did she greet all of this? With a face like a slapped backside.

Couldn’t the Met have sent someone else to investigate the case of the bumped-off accountant, the honeytrapper on the run and the missing loot? No, it had to be her. Shetland, the islands, needed Calder's feel for the place, even though she’d hated every minute of growing up there and had got the hell out, two days after her 18th birthday. And Shetland, the show, needed a new star after Dougie Henshall’s departure.

Every now and again policers must recruit replacement sleuths and it usually works out fine, even for Taggart, which brazenly retained its name following the lead actor’s death. Here, Henshall’s craggy, mournful Jimmy Perez had become part of the landscape and the atmosphere, but on first evidence Jensen’s introduction looks like proving, yet again, that no one man is bigger than the show. Or indeed the voe.

It took Jimmy until the very end of the seventh series to find true love. This time, not quite having spent one full day back on her old stamping ground, Ruth was making a booty call. “What you do to me … ” sang Teenage Fanclub on the soundtrack as she rang Cal Innes’s doorbell and presumably he was her teenage sweetheart.

Innes is played by Jamie Sives. The honeytrapper belongs to a big family headed by Phyllis Logan which includes Dawn Steele and Lorraine McIntosh. That’s a cracking cast for the show’s return and back at the station Sgt McCabe is still good for a scone. And with a kindly shopkeeper turning up in her own freezer compartment - victim of a square-headed East European psycho bird-loving hitman - such comforts were needed.

But really, all eyes are on Jensen. Did Calder bonk Innes for old time’s sake or will it become a regular thing? Will that woolly scarf, in a shade I’d have to call Thatcher Blue, become her signature like Jimmy’s peacoat? Is she going to copy her predecessor and never ever smile?

Hide Ad

We’ll learn more about her past and the dad she didn’t like. Before then, though, she has to get on better with Tosh (Alison O’Donnell) who some fans thought - hoped - might take over the gig herself. There are the makings of a good team. A sonsy, wind-battered Scott & Bailey. A Cagney & Lacey at the edge of the world.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.